Spring is the equivalent of freedom to thousands of students that will finally graduate from college, and with graduation comes a flood of commencement speeches across campuses nation-wide. I always anticipate graduation season when YouTube comes alive with dozens of commencement speeches from celebrities, notable society figures, or enriched students. For me, these commencement speeches are not only a source of nostalgia for my past graduations, but also a reminder that it is never too late for us to be inspired. They’re a jolt to my batteries, of sorts.
After listening to a bunch of wonderful (and some not so wonderful) speeches, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 favorites and my favorite nugget of wisdom or inspiration from each. In no particular order…
1. Arianna Huffington – Smith College
While I’m not ranking these speeches, this is definitely one that I found to be pretty interesting. Arianna focuses her main point on the idea of “success” and how society defines the word. Her most valuable point can be summed up when she says, “…success, the way we’ve defined it, is no longer sustainable. It’s not sustainable for human beings; it’s not sustainable for the planet.”
2. Annie Lennox – Berklee College of Music & Julie Andrews – CU Boulder
I’m grouping these together because they both have a similar message of how the arts transformed their lives and led the way for their success. I particularly enjoyed Julie Andrew’s speech when she discusses how her loss of the ability to sing transformed her career and helped her discover a “new voice.”
3. Dick Costolo – University of Michigan
Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, speaks to his alma mater about his interesting career and how his past, ironically—grounded in improvisational comedy—has made him adept at not thinking ahead but being in the moment. He does a great job at being comical and serious while relevant to a young generation.
4. Melinda Gates – Duke University
As wife to the billionaire Bill Gates, Melinda blew my expectations as a commencement speaker. “Unplug and connect to those around you” is a central point in her message.
5. John Green – Butler University
Author, John Green, gives an awesome speech that really focuses on celebrating those in our lives that help us become who we are, without being celebrities or public figures.
There were too many good speeches to not mention, so while these may not go down in the commencement history books, they are still worth a listen.
Anders Holm – University of Wisconsin – Madison
The Dalai Lama – Tulane University
Vice President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden – University of Pennsylvania
What commencement speeches did you enjoy or find to be the most inspirational? Or, tell us who spoke at yours!